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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – On August 29, 2005, the Biloxi Town Green was framed by debris and destruction. Rubble and bare remnants of buildings and homes were all Katrina's storm surge left behind. In the middle of the disaster, stood one oak tree.
Five years later, in the break of morning showers, people filled the now neatly manicured Green around that tree to remember the most precious losses of Katrina.
"This morning, I believe, is a time for us to pause and reflect on another facet of this catastrophe: the 170 lives that were extinguished in the storm surge in the Katrina winds," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway to the crowd.
Residents of Biloxi gathered to celebrate five years of recovery, but also to hear the names of those victims of Katrina that are now listed on the Biloxi Katrina Memorial that stands at the same height of the storm surge.
"This monument stands as a quiet reminder of the lost, the found, and the moment that changed us forever," said Holloway.
As songs and prayers echoed back to the crowd from surrounding buildings, guests also took time to express gratitude.
"In adversity, character shows through, and after Katrina Mississippi shined brightly indeed," said Senator Roger Wicker, (R) Mississippi.
Along with remembering those lives that were lost, the ceremony recognized those who are left behind to rebuild.
"Like the trees behind me, leaf by leaf, branch by branch we're coming back," said Congressman Gene Taylor, 4th District (D).
"Since we're left behind we have an obligation to make things better," said Wicker.
The brief ceremony ended the same way it began, with song. Choruses of "This Little Light of Mine," reverberated from the Our Mother of Sorrows Choir through the crowd.
"Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine," they sang, reminding everyone to not let the pain of the past overcome the progress made.